Yes, it is!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Champion Speller

I am so proud of my Jackie.  My champion speller has qualified for the 2nd grade spelling bee.  I am beyond proud of her for so many reasons.  Jackie has proved so many people, including people, wrong.


When Jackie was a toddler, one of her doctors warned us about the likelihood of Jackie having learning disabilities.  And behavior issues.  And not be able to run.  The list goes on.  I realize that doctors feel that they must prepare parents for the worst but to hear that my baby might not be able to learn felt like a punch to my gut.  I was determined that my baby girl was going to continue to learn and she was going to be a conqueror.

Jackie has received physical and occupational therapies since age 9 months, just 3 months after she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  As a toddler, Jackie started to receive speech therapy due to a speech delay, a delay that we're not sure is related to the CP.  Unfortunately, at Jackie's school, having an IEP is considered to be part of the special education department.  Until last year, Jackie had an IEP in place so that she could receive physical and speech therapies.  At the last IEP meeting nearly a year ago, it was recommended that Jackie be released from the IEP because, based on her academic standing, Jackie did not belong in special education.  I have to admit being a little confused about that because Jackie was always in a regular classroom and earned nearly straight A's from the beginning.  Apparently, it was the speech therapy component of the IEP that caused Jackie to be considered a special education student despite her excellent academics.  I was more than happy to have Jackie released from that and have a 504 put in place instead.

Looking back, I don't know why I continue to be amazed with my daughter.  I always knew she was a smart little girl, even as a baby.  Perhaps I was biased.  I do know that those who qualified my daughter, at age 3,  for the Early Childhood program thought otherwise, based on their testing.  I'll never forget Jackie's very first IEP meeting.  I was 8 months pregnant with our little surprise bundle and I was so nervous about this meeting.  I was so afraid of what those people thought of my little girl and what they thought of me and Tim as her parents.  Were we inadequate parents?  Did we not teach our daughter enough? Would our soon-to-be born son be considered an additional burden to us now that our daughter has a label.  I already knew that Jackie did not do very well with all of the initial testing/evaluation but it was because Jackie refused to talk to them.  But I felt like Tim and I were outnumbered at this first meeting.  I mean, the occupational therapist, the physical therapist, the speech therapist, the school psychologist, the school social worker, Jackie's soon-to-be teacher, it seemed like everyone was there sitting around the tables, looking at me for answers, and perhaps even evaluating us as parents. Then copies of the IEP were passed around for everyone, including us, to have their own copies.  As the first person started to explain the IEP, I couldn't help but glance ahead.  There it was, glaring angrily, the words, global developmental delays.  In other words, in addition to her physical delays, my daughter also had intellectual delays.  The tears stung as I tried desperately to hold them in.  Those people were wrong.  So very wrong.  As they got to that page that explained the criteria for labeling my daughter with such a diagnosis, it took everything in me to not just fall apart and collapse to the floor.  I knew my daughter was smart.  Why couldn't they see that?  I left that meeting feeling a little defeated (and perhaps a little ashamed) but also determined to prove to these people that my daughter did not have low intelligence and that she was a smart little girl.  Yes, she may have been very small for her age and a bit delayed physically but she was certainly not delayed intellectually.

So, Jackie was scheduled to start the Early Childhood program on the day that I was scheduled to deliver Ben by c-section in mid-December.  Even though I felt time was of the essence in proving these people wrong about my baby girl (at least, in my mind it was), Tim and I decided to wait and have Jackie start school after the new year.

I have to say that I am so thankful for that program, as resistant as I was in the beginning.  The teacher is incredible (Ben has the same teacher).  Within a couple of months, Jackie started to come out of her shell and she began to blossom.  And her teacher and the aides could see that Jackie was nowhere near low intelligence.  Jackie was just a very shy little girl and it used to take her a long time to warm up to new people and situations.  Jackie also received additional speech, physical, and occupational therapies at school.  Pretty soon, the speech therapist was able to see how smart Jackie really was, despite her speech delay.  After Jackie completed a year and a half of this program, it was recommended that she graduate to the regular Pre-K program on the same campus.  Tim and I decided at that point to place her in a private Pre-K where she attended 3 full days each week.  Jackie continued to thrive there during that year.

Jackie is now in the 2nd grade at the very same school where she was labeled as being developmentally delayed.  Some of the staff who remember (and were part of the initial IEP team) Jackie during those early years still express amazement at Jackie's progress.  This makes me proud.  Jackie is a shining star student at her school and seems to be well-liked by most people there (kids and teachers alike).  Because Jackie has been through so much already (one can't tell by looking at her), I will continue to brag shamelessly.  Jackie talks about becoming a doctor and a teacher.  I truly believe that she will do it and I have faith that she will continue to conquer whatever curveballs are thrown at her, just as she has done before, to achieve her life goals.

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